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Les Knutson: Lamberton joins trio of Region 13C teams at state

By Les Knutson

Daily Globe sports columnist 

LAMBERTON —- While the Luverne Redbirds were impressively sweeping a trio of best-of-three series to win the championship of Region 13C in the area amateur baseball playoffs, the Lamberton Long Sox were going 4-1 in Region 2C’s round-robin tournament format, setting up a regional championship clash with rival Sleepy Eye.

The Long Sox, who have been playing since 2002, repeated as Region 2C champions with a 7-5 victory Sunday at Lamberton and — like Luverne — earned a first-week bye in this year’s Class C state tournament, which begins Friday at Maple Lake and Delano.

“The bye is not always a good thing,” says Lamberton player-manager Derrick Jenniges, who is sidelined with a shoulder injury this summer. “In fact, last year, nine of the 16 teams who had first-round byes lost the first game they played.”

Including the Long Sox, who were defeated by Avon, 11-2.

“But for us it may be good this year, as we have a couple of players with some injuries who may benefit from the break,” he said. “We are going to do things differently this year during these two weeks off.”

This is Lamberton’s fifth state tournament trip in the past nine seasons, as the Long Sox also qualified in 2005, 2008 and 2009 before last year’s early exit.

In 2009, Lamberton won a pair of state-tournament games, going 2-2 overall and advancing to the third weekend as one of the final eight teams.

Jenniges is one of six players who have been a part of all five late-August opportunities, being joined by brothers Isaac and Jacob, along with Colby Pack, Tyler Reiner and Donald Strand.

Strand, a Tracy native and the nephew of Adrian High School football and girls’ basketball coach Randy Strand, is having a stellar season for the Long Sox at the plate and on the bases.

“Donald’s setting a lot of team records this summer,” praises Jenniges. “He’s a great base runner and is becoming a real good hitter. Strand is our center fielder and our leadoff batter. He has all-time season bests in hits, singles and stolen bases.”

Strand has scored a team-leading 37 runs, stolen 24 bases and has been hit by 15 pitches this season, while drawing nine walks and smacking 54 hits (43 singles, eight doubles, three triples).

Joining Strand (.409) with high batting averages for the Sox are cleanup hitter Pack (.363) and No. 3 batter Johnny Pistulka (.333), while No. 5 batter Landon Erickson leads the team with 25 RBI.

Pistulka (23), Pack (20), Strand (18), Reiner (16) and Isaac Jenniges (16) have also driven in lots of runs for the well-balanced Long Sox.

“We get good production from every spot in our line-up,” declared Derrick Jenniges. “Our hitting balance is one of our strengths.”

Pack has blasted 45 career home runs for the Long Sox and sports a remarkable .361 career batting average. He is Lamberton’s all-time leader in both runs (259) and RBI (291), while also leading in total hits (429, including 89 doubles and 15 triples).

Pistulka, who struck out 30 hitters and allowed only three runs in 23 innings of the regional tournament, has been Lamberton’s ace pitcher throughout the season. The hard-throwing right hander has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 99-15 and a sparkling 1.55 ERA.

Shane Schoborg has won nine games on the mound (9-1) this summer, including Sunday’s championship and sports a solid 2.71 ERA. With a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 53-12, Schoborg may not be as overpowering as Pistulka, but has been a clutch performer for the Sox.

“Shane is a very good lefty, who has good control of three different pitches and he can throw them all from different angles,” praised Derrick Jenniges. “He has done a great job for us.”

Jacob Jenniges has pitched more than 61 innings and — with a ratio of 39-9, a 5-1 win-loss record and 1.61 ERA — gives his brother another strong pitching option.

With an overall record of 25-10 and an 1lth consecutive Tomahawk East League Division championship under its belt, Lamberton will play Aug. 24 at Delano vs. the winner of the game between Brownton and Dumont, which takes place Friday in Maple Lake.

Region 13 tourney

was a big success

Region 13C commissioner Greg Rossow of Windom was pleased with both the quality of play and the fine fan attendance during this year’s regional playoffs.

“Although only one of the series went to a third game, there was great baseball played in this year’s tournament,” said Rossow, who was an outstanding infielder for the Windom Pirates during the 1970s before becoming a professional slow-pitch softball player. “We had very good gate receipts at a number of the games and the atmosphere was intense both on the field and among the crowds.”

Luverne, with a great combination of solid pitching, remarkable defense and a very well-balanced hitting attack, won all six of its games, sweeping Heron Lake (7-5, 9-2), Wilmont (3-2, 4-3) and top-seeded Fairmont (13-4, 7-3) to win the championship.

Both Fairmont and Wilmont also qualified for the state tournament and will open play this weekend.

The Cardinals tangle with Region 1’s No. 2 seed Clear Lake Friday (5 p.m.) at Delano.

Hadley’s Game 2

rally was great

Of all the games in this year’s regional playoffs, Hadley’s dramatic, 9-8, victory over Fairmont in Game 2 Aug. 3 at Hadley had to be among the best.

Playing in the tournament’s semifinals at Hadley — where the town-team baseball atmosphere is at its best — the Martins appeared to clinch a sweep with a 7-2 lead going into the bottom of the eighth.

But the Buttermakers created lots of excitement for their loyal fans by rallying with five runs to knot the score at 7-7.

Fairmont countered and pushed across the lead run in the top of the ninth, claiming an 8-7 edge.

Hadley rallied again, loading the bases in the bottom of the frame and then tying the score when catcher Trent Carlson drew a walk.

Chris Halbur’s RBI single up the middle plated the winning run and — for the only time in the entire regional tournament -— a third game was needed.

While only three of the region’s 16 teams are still playing, it will only be nine more months before the 2014 amateur baseball season is in full swing again.